Malaysians banned from travelling to seven countries including South Africa


KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Malaysians are banned from travelling to seven countries, namely South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe following the emergence of the new COVID-19 strain.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said it was a government initiative in strengthening prevention and border control measures, including for travellers arriving in the country, effective tomorrow.

He said three countries had reported cases of the new B.1.1.529 variant, namely South Africa with 77 cases, Botswana (four) and Hong Kong (two), however, based on genomic surveillance, to date, there were no reports of the variant in Malaysia.

“Temporary restriction on all foreign nationals with a history of travel within 14 days to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“Malaysian citizens and permanent residents returning home after visiting those countries are allowed to enter Malaysia but must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at quarantine stations regardless of their vaccination status. The quarantine cannot be done at home,” he told a press conference here today.

Khairy said samples would also be taken from all travellers arriving from the seven countries for genomic surveillance.

He said continuous monitoring for genomic surveillance was carried out by a consortium comprising the Health Ministry through the Institute of Medical Research (IMR); the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry as well as the Higher Education Ministry.

According to reports, the new variant has 32 spike protein mutations, double the number of Delta variant, and to date, there is no available data on its incubation period, symptoms and infectivity rate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) currently monitoring the developments.

“The new variant has been categorised as variant under monitoring (VUM). The Health Ministry views the existence of this new variant seriously and will increase the genomic surveillance on individuals arriving from affected countries,” he said.